NEWS FOR August 26, 2015

Dear Friends,
I was waiting in an office yesterday and picked up the top magazine in the pile.  It happened to be the Winter 2015 edition of the Baylor Magazine. Since the forensics department, specifically Dr. Lori Baker and her students, are strong collaborators with the South Texas Human Rights Center, I had a particular interest in combing its pages.

I came across the story on pages 39-41, and it is what prompts my writing today.  I read the interview with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the parents of the family in the movie The Blind Side, and the authors of In A Heartbeat.

Because Sean listened to Leigh Anne when she said "Turn around" and because Leigh Anne listened to her daughter when she said "That's the new kid in school" their ordinary world and the whole world changed.  It was a new day for Michael Oher, it was a new day for the Tuohy family. 

To listen is to act.  To listen is to change.

I heard the words of the article in the light of the daily work of the South Texas Human Rights Center.  

Leigh Anne:  "It's amazing where God has taken us on this journey."  

When I look back on the year that I have been involved with the STHRC, I am amazed at how God is at work on so many seemingly impossible situations.  How can the STHRC in collaboration with multiple other NGOs and brave individuals working at the grassroots even DARE to believe that even one deceased person will be found in the desert of Brooks County, forensically identified, matched with a poor searching family in a foreign county through DNA, then repatriated and buried in their home village? And yet is has happened.

Leigh Anne:  "If someone that is as valuable as Michael Oher almost falls through the cracks, can you imagine who gets left behind?"

What about a Wendy.  I visit Wendy in the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, TX, a four hour drive from Falfurrias.  Wendy left her homeland of Guatemala over 10 months ago.  Not only that.  She left her four children. She has been imprisoned on both sides of the border and has spent more than 8 months in Hutto.  Every day Wendy has the option to sign a piece paper that would send her back to Guatemala to be with her children.  And each day she chooses with great restraint and sadness not to sign.  She is holding out for the last appeal of her asylum case with her pro-bono lawyer. Wendy cries when her children's birthdays pass....as do her children. Wendy is a nurse.  She lights up when she talks about having given therapy to person who eventually was able to walk again.  Wendy has been left behind in detention because she has no money to pay the bond and wait for her hearing on the outside.  Wendy has been left behind by the powerful figures of American society who fear mothers with children much like King Herod of old.  Even more, it is Wendy's children who have been left behind.

Leigh Anne:  "People all the time go, 'Gosh, you took this risk.  You took this big black kid into your house and you had a daughter the same age. What were you thinking?'  I was thinking, 'It's none of your business.'"

Though this might be a rather harsh response, it is nonetheless direct. How much does what other people think influence the way we listen and the way we act? Everyone here on the border has an angle.  Money influences decisions to act or not to act or how to act.  It's political.  For some it is too risky to allow a water station with 6 gallons of clean water for the wandering undocumented passerby to drink, even if it is on a distant and empty dirt road, as I suspect that some of the water we place is being deliberately removed so that those who thirst will not find water.  I sometimes wonder what it will look like on the day of judgment for one who has withheld a cup of cool water from a thirsty child of God who has died in the desert.  In the end the only opinion that matters is God's.

Sean:  "I think that the lesson we learned through our kids is that we feel really good when we sit down and write a check and we send it to the United Way.  I mean, we do.  We feel good.  But--and don't stop if you're doing it because there's some great organizations doing wonderful things--but we watched our kids, as young as they were, when they were physically involved in something, how much difference it made.  And it was so much more impactful than a check.  And again, keep writing them.  I mean, places need them, but it doesn't replace the boots on the ground."

I want to especially THANK  those who have volunteered at the STHRC during this past year.  It is because of YOU that 80 water stations have been placed and maintained and refilled in Brooks County and beyond.  It is because of YOU that missing persons reports have been taken and officially filed.

I want to especially THANK  those who have taken an Immersion Experience with the STHRC and have gone back home to share knowledge, wisdom and experiences of the border region.   YOU have listened and you are making a difference in your home cities and parishes and families.  

I want to especially THANK  those who have made a donation to keep the STHRC open for the sake of its mission:  To end death and suffering among migrants and promote human rights and humanitarian efforts through community initiatives in South Texas.  The STHRC is run by two full time volunteers and a part-time forensic anthropologist who is paid through a grant.  Total funding comes through grants and donations.  The donation YOU make is important!

Please consider supporting us through a regular monthly online donation. Visit our PayPal account at www.southtexashumanrights.org.  Our goal is to find 50 new monthly donors.   Thank you for whatever amount you are able to donate each month.

Leigh Anne:  "But the truth of the matter is we all take risks every single day....It's what you choose to take a risk on.  Take a risk on somebody. Take a risk, turn around."

Eddie Canales assists a family from California who is searching for a relative who has gone missing in Brooks County.

Thank you for your support and prayers!
Sr. Pam

To educate about the reality of the South Texas border and the people affected by border policies and practices, the STHRC has begun to organize immersion experiences.  To participate in an 8-day hands-on border immersion experience (Sunday to Sunday) of four persons, contact me at pbuganski@yahoo.com.  

An immersion group visits the Sacred Heart Cemetery where unidentified migrants have been buried and exhumed.